Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Friday, August 10, 2007

I N L A N D   E M P I R E

       So much has already been written about David Lynch’s latest feature, that I can hardly imagine what -- of substance -- I could add to the collected encomia. I’ll say -- or reiterate, as the case may be -- this much. It’s quite good; Lynch’s best film in years, in fact. It features an Oscar-worthy performance from Laura Dern, the most inventive use yet of the mini-DV format towards the making of a feature film that I’ve seen, and...        Oh, yes! -- it also doesn’t make a lick of sense.
I mean that in the good old-fashioned, surrealist sense of making no sense. Like a lot of Lynch’s earlier work, INLAND EMPIRE doesn’t just defy rational interpretation; it kind of openly double-dares the viewer to apply such a standard. Any notions you may have about linear narrative just won’t help you here, folks, so the sooner you abandon those, the sooner we can get on with the show...

       The difficulty -- some would say well nigh impossibility -- of trying to summarize the plot aside, the movie concerns one Nikki Grace (Laura Dern), an actress past her prime who has a shot at a comeback playing a character called Susan Blue in the film “On High in Blue Tomorrows”. A screenplay, the director informs Nikki, that is in fact a remake of a much earlier Polish film called “4/7” -- or perhaps “47” -- that had to discontinue production because the lead actors were killed during the shoot. Murdered, -- according to the director character played by Jeremy Irons -- by “something they discovered... inside the story." Despite receiving a warning against taking the role from a neighborly Eastern European gypsy (portrayed by Lynch regular, Grace Zabriskie), Nikki decides to go ahead and join the cast anyway. She commences an affair with the male lead, and in an attempt to hide her on-stage rendezvous with him from the rest of the crew, Nikki secrets herself away in one of the sets; and promptly gets lost...        somewhere. And there isn’t too much point in trying to explain things from there on out.

       The above synopsis just barely grazes the surface of the events, characters, and storylines present in INLAND EMPIRE -- or the fact that both Nikki and “Susan Blue” may just be figments in the imagination of another character in the film. There’s also a separate plotline involving some prostitutes and a young boy in danger, another involving a shadowy Russian figure known only as “The Phantom” -- and what to make of the rabbit-headed figures who populate a sit-com that, at one time or another, seemingly every character in the film sits down to watch? There are an awful lot of theories floating around on the internet as to the exact significance of this or that character or event in the film -- but I won’t try to push you towards one interpretation or another, dear reader (and revealing any more of the goings-on would spoil half the fun of seeing it anyway). Suffice to say, the film concerns a variety of themes that orbit around issues of fame, identity and ultimately, mortality. My suspicion is, the exact significance of their presentation here is intentionally meant to vary from person to person, maybe even from one viewing to the next; and I’m not sure it all “adds up” -- or even that there is any way of adding it up -- but it’s a film with undeniable moments of power, and even beauty.

       Most interested filmgoers didn’t even get a chance to see INLAND EMPIRE at their local multiplex because... well, it didn’t play there; in order to have complete creative control over this latest project, Lynch had to wrangle a rather dodgy combination Theatrical/DVD rights deal with Rhino -- a fine distributor of digital media, but one whose theatrical distribution resources simply don’t measure up to those of Paramount, or even the various indie releasing companies that have previously handled his films here in the U.S. Which is a shame, because even though it was shot on video (and not even hi-def; Lynch used Sony's PD-150 to capture his latest vision -- a camcorder you and I could have picked up at Best Buy until a couple of years ago; it’s since been replaced by even better models), it still looks great when viewed on the big screen -- murky, even just a touch blurry as a result of the blow-up to theatrical image size -- but perfect for Lynch’s purposes here. When questioned about “what it all means..?”, Lynch is typically reticent about explaining or even discussing the film; usually just remarking that it’s "about a woman in trouble, and it's a mystery, and that's all I want to say about it."; when pressed, he’s offered this quote from the Upanishads as a clue: "We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe." And that’s probably the most insightful statement I’ve heard as of yet regarding this puzzling film.

       You can visit INLAND EMPIRE this Tuesday, August 14th, when it becomes available for rent or purchase on DVD. It’s a 2-disc special edition with loads of extras -- but of course, no audio commentary on the feature itself -- Lynch feels that a film should speak for itself or not at all. At 172 minutes in length, It’s a long haul, and a strange one too -- but worth the trip.

Some links:

David Lynch's website.


An interview with Lynch about INLAND EMPIRE and digital filmmaking in general.

Next post -- 08/17/07

No comments: